The Matildas returned from the Women’s World Cup announcing that they need a national league. If you thought soccer has already changed Australia’s sporting landscape, wait until women’s soccer takes off.

The big clubs in AFL and NRL are trying to tap into new business opportunities without undermining their base. Many clubs looked over the A-League in its start-up phase. Given a choice between definitely undermining their base and possibly extending their franchise a little, they all backed off and the A-League had to create artificial clubs from scratch. The big clubs can’t ignore soccer but they are trying to contain it.

The Melbourne Demons and Melbourne Victory cross-sell tickets to each other’s games. Victory appreciate the help but they want everyone in Victoria to support them, not just Dees fans. The Demons won’t help a game that could turn a generation away from AFL. This awkward arrangement represents the only bridge over the chasms between football codes. Melbourne Storm are unpopular within rugby league and are shunned by the AFL: a win this weekend would be some solace, but either way the loneliness will soon return.

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All football clubs across all codes squabble to offer sponsors the same demographic, low-to-middle income males. Just imagine the cross-promotional opportunities across different games with the same team colours and advertising. Where else could you see Geelong play Manly?

The very prospect of a women’s soccer league threatens the slow, patient work behind the current number one sport for Australian women – netball. The coming trans-Tasman league results from decades of overcoming the Catch-22 of low sponsorship and media attention. Will it be enough? Linkages between Collingwood and the Melbourne Kestrels have yielded little besides a few extra Kestrels tickets.

Women’s soccer promises much to football clubs looking for a way to get the upside of soccer without the downside. Framing soccer as a women’s sport would shore up the now-dominant codes, and may take some rough edges off their public images. By contrast, a footy club can make a small donation from pokies takings to local amateur netball and everyone’s happy – except those with high hopes for netball.

Any footy club that misses opportunities from women’s soccer will kick themselves for years.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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